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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Sun, 08 Jul 2018

I'm running Fedora the way the Fedora people want me to run Fedora

Before my Fedora 27-to-28 upgrade failed in a spectacular enough fashion that I had to figure out how to reinstall the operating system while keeping my user files (spoiler alert: I was successful in doing it), I had a system that had been though maybe 10 successful upgrades and had collected plenty of cruft along the way.

This particular laptop, now a 5-year-old HP Pavilion g6, made it through the transitions from yum to dnf and X11 to Wayland and from the time the Catalyst/AMD driver worked to when it didn't (and I didn't need it).

For the F28 upgrade to go wrong was very much out of character for my experience with Fedora, which I began using with F13 (quickly upgraded to F14) on my previous laptop, a 2010-era Lenovo G555, before an upgrade-gone-bad sent me to Debian for the rest of its life. That cheap Lenovo died a quick death in 2013, going to sleep one minute, not waking up, ever again, the next.

There were and are many reasons to run Fedora. But for me, the constant flow of new Linux kernels meant my at-the-time new hardware would be supported much more quickly than in distros that kept the same kernel for the life of the release. And to get that constant newness, all I had to do was make sure the system was updated. That was my No. 1.

After that, Fedora's penchant for pushing new versions of the rest of its software while still staying very stable kept me with the distro for the HP Pavilion's usable life. I consider the failed F27-28 upgrade an anomaly, and since I was able to install F28 while keeping my user files, I decided to stick with Fedora. Aside from familiarity, this was a chance to begin using Fedora with a clean (or at least cleaner) slate.

Before I continue, I have to say that this HP laptop is no longer my daily driver. For that I have a newer HP Envy. Since the Windows 10 it shipped with now has the WSL (aka Windows Subsystem for Linux), I decided to give Microsoft's OS a try, and so far it has worked well, stayed out of my way and given me an Ubuntu system on which to do those things that only Unix/Linux can do, along with a revamped Windows GUI that works a lot better than I expected. I am doing a lot of the same things I did in Linux, though I haven't yet figured out the Windows version of rsync, and I know now not to mix Windows and Linux filesystems and face the permissions hell that results.

Why the disenchantment with Linux?

For me anyway, a lot of the air has been let out of the Linux balloon. I don't feel like any of the Linux GUIs that I used -- and that includes GNOME 3, Xfce, KDE and LXDE -- was getting anywhere near the attention I thought was needed. The whole "If you complain, why don't you stop doing whatever it is that you do and dedicate your life to fixing any problem with Linux you may have" attitude really rubs me the wrong way.

The Fedora "we are OK with you being a user, but we really want you to be a contributor" is a nicer way of saying it, but it still kind of says, "Users? Meh."

Maybe there's something I could (and would want to) do in the Linux world -- aside from these rambling blog posts, of which I don't see nearly as many from others as I used to -- but I'm not feeling that level of involvement right now.

While in some ways Linux on the desktop has maintained its numbers if not its share of the media (web articles, printed books and articles), the excitement just isn't there. Some of it is because the development world has fled to Mac OS, some because Windows is much improved since XP. A lot is because laptop/desktop computing has taken quite a hit from mobile phones and tablets in terms of which devices people use. And there's very little "heat" on open source operating systems in the mobile space.

Back to Linux and my desktop OS choices.

Given that there's plenty of corporate involvement in Linux (not just from Red Hat), the leap to using an OS that is all-corporate isn't so big. Maybe I'm trying to rationalize it, but I just didn't feel the progress in Linux desktops that I wanted to see. Maybe I should have tried Cinnamon, Mate, or any number of other desktop environments.

As it was, I had more than a half-dozen DEs on my Fedora system before the failed upgrade.

And the point of this entry is that I reinstalled and am now running Fedora on my "secondary" laptop with the Fedora Workstation setup. I have the stock GNOME 3 desktop environment. That's it. I haven't even added Xfce, which is my usual go-to DE.

While my "dark theme" settings stuck around from my old Fedora installation, I'm running this Fedora system pretty much in its stock configuration. I already use Firefox as my main browser in Windows, and I have my bookmarks synced across all of my systems. I usually install Geany as my text editor of choice, but I'm sticking with the stock Gedit. Even in Windows 10, I use Gvim more than anything because creating macros with my favorite Windows editor Notepad++ is an exercise in pain. Plus the constant use of Vim has really sharpened my skills in that editor, and with it I can do a lot of work without my fingers leaving the keyboard to grab the mouse. Never mind that Clojure, a programming language I'm very much interested in, pretty much requires that developers use Emacs, something I'm still resisting.

So what I'm trying to say over the course of all this rambling is that my aim with this new Fedora 28 system is to keep things simple, make peace with GNOME 3, Nautilus/Files (which is pretty nice; I appreciate the Dropbox status icons, which just started working today for some reason) and Gedit (which I've always liked, especially for its sophisticated Snippets feature).

I'm happy with Fedora 28, and even with the GNOME 3-centric Workstation lineup of applications and surrounding furniture. I'm not crazy about the every-six-months Fedora upgrade cycle, but with the exception of this last, failed upgrade, it usually goes well. It can take the better part of a day, which I also don't like, but that's the drill.

Maybe I'd like a continuously updated Fedora. The distro seems to do that anyway, yet I still have to do the "major" upgrade every six months. I know you can upgrade once a year, but I usually want the "new" stuff, so I do the upgrade as soon as its available, though I do recommend waiting -- if I had waited before my last Fedora upgrade, it probably would have worked.

For now the system is working, I'm using it for this kind of writing and for development (mostly Ruby these days), and it's going well.

Despite my current feelings of indifference and malaise over the Linux desktop's place in both my world and the larger world around me, I can see myself going back to Linux -- probably Fedora, maybe Ubuntu or Debian -- on my main laptop. I appreciate the ability to install an operating system as many times, on as many devices as I want without having to purchase licenses or prove that I'm "allowed" to do so by an existing agreement or purchase.

My plans for the HP Envy include getting an SSD module to replace the spinning hard drive, and I can see myself starting that new drive out with a Linux system. Or I could do that with the current hard drive. It'll happen if I run into problems with Windows 10.

The biggest issue I've had with developing in Windows (and outside of the WSL) is the backslash-vs-forward-slash and cr/lf vs. lf differences. Otherwise I've been pretty lucky. My "meh" attitude toward Linux ramped up in response to my growing interest in programming, especially in programs -- like my Ruby script for creating blog and social-media posts -- that can run across operating systems.

I guess I'll close by saying that my two-OS life will continue. Dropbox's cross-platform functionality is what makes it all possible (and how they deal with Linux permissions when a Windows client is involved, I don't know).

If you've read this far, give yourself a geeky gold star. And remember -- you saw nothing here. Nothing!